City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Johannesburg Zoo


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 Media Statement

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Hope in a time of despair…

Makokou, the 35year-old male gorilla from the Joburg Zoo, is set to fly to Onderstepoort in Pretoria for a pre-op CT scan, on Saturday, 6 June at 8am

In May 2020 a decision was taken to immobilise the Joburg Zoo’s male Western Lowland Gorilla Makokou, who is 35 years-old, for a complete health examination. He has previously been suffering from a chronic nasal discharge which had not been responding positively to routine medical treatments. 

A team of specialists were consulted to assist with further expertise and specialised equipment, to help in diagnosing the ailment. They included: 

  • Prof Adrian Tordiffe (Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital- OVAH)
  • Prof Gerhard Steenkamp (VETDENT SA)
  • Prof Johannes Schoeman (Onderstepoort- OVAH)
  • Dr Justin Grace (Onderstepoort- OVAH)
  • Dr Jose' Carlos Almansa Ruiz (VETDENT SA)
  • Dr Keri-lee Dobbie (Johannesburg Animal Eye Hospital)
  • Dr Kirsten Dinham (IMV Imaging SA)
  • Mr Tim Perks (IMV Imaging SA)

This team together with the Veterinary Services and Animal Collection team at Joburg Zoo conducted the health examination on Makokou, after considerable planning. The initial examination consisted of a detailed physical exam, extensive blood work, radiography, electrocardiogram, cardiac ultrasound, ophthalmic exam, dental exam, rhinoscopy, blood pressure analysis and various other sample collections. 

During this procedure it was discovered that Makokou had a nasal growth which had been causing his symptoms. A biopsy of this was taken and sent for histopathology. The results revealed that he has chronic Rhinitis with inflammatory polyps developing in his nasal passages.

This brings us to our plan for Saturday. The only way to accurately see the extent of these lesions affecting Makokou is to perform a diagnostic CT (Computed-tomography) scan. Unfortunately due to his size (around 210kg) the only machine available to us that is large enough to provide a proper scan him and take his weight, is located at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH) 

Prof Gerhard Steenkamp has kindly arranged for this procedure to be done at the OVAH, he has also arranged for a non-vet ENT surgeon who will be there to assess the scans and further evaluate Makokou’s ailment. Great apes are our closest living relatives and a qualified surgeon is required to remove his nasal polyps. This surgery will likely be done at a later date once the CT scan has been completed and fully assessed. Prof Steenkamp has also generously secured the services of pilot who was prepared to fly Makokou via a helicopter to OVAH for the scan. Mr Mike Barnes CEO from MCC Aviation will pilot the helicopter and together with Mr Mike Goodwin his GM, they have been kind enough to undertake this procedure pro-bono.  

At 8am on 6 June 2020 we will be immobilizing Makokou for transportation to OVAH for a diagnostic CT scan. 

Our veterinary team will meet at the zoo at 7:00 to prepare for the procedure. Makokou will receive an oral sedative at 8am and be closed in his night-room. The helicopter will land at 9:00 in the designated area, to transport Makokou. Dr Justine Grace and Dr Kresen Pillay from the Joburg Zoo will accompany Makokou on the helicopter. At OVAH he will have the CT scan performed and once this is complete he will be returned to Joburg Zoo via the helicopter.

Indepth preparations have gone on behind the scenes to ensure that all team members strictly abide by the extensive protocol measures in place. The wellbeing and care of Makokou who will celebrate his 35th birthday on 9 July, remains of paramount importance for all staff at the Joburg Zoo.

Issued on behalf of

Mr Lombard Shirindzi

Executive Manager of the Joburg Zoo